The speaker of the House of Commons says he would not invite President Trump to Parliament pic.twitter.com/AkKYaO7o9I— Esther Webber (@estwebber) February 6, 2017
President Donald Trump may be able to visit the United Kingdom, but he will certainly not be able to address the U.K.’s Parliament — not if Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow has anything to say about it.
Bercow has been accused of damaging the U.S.-U.K. "special relationship" after he vowed to use his authority to stop the president of the United States from speaking in Parliament — one of the high points of the trip — because of his racist and sexist views and because of the Muslim ban he has placed on seven countries.
“Before the imposition of the migrant ban I would myself have been strongly opposed to an address by President Trump in Westminster Hall," Bercow told legislators. "After the imposition of the migrant ban by President Trump I’m even more strongly opposed.
“I would not wish to issue an invitation to President Trump,” Bercow said, adding in a raised voice, “I feel very strongly that our opposition to racism and to sexism and our support for equality before the law and an independent judiciary are hugely important considerations in the House of Commons.”
While some MPs praised him, Bercow’s words also triggered angry reactions from many politicians who believe the speaker has overstepped his bounds.
Tori MP Nadhim Zahawi stated Bercow had opened himself to “the accusation of hypocrisy” and compromised his neutrality — a convention that is required to be upheld by the speaker.
Zahawi also noted the speaker raised no objection when China’s President Xi Jinping — who raised ire over his oppressive policy on Tibet — and Kuwait’s emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah — who banned entry of people with dual Israeli nationality — visited the U.K. and spoke in Parliament.
Crispin Blunt, the Foreign Affairs Committee chairman, also criticized Bercow's comments, stating, “He has no idea whether he will be speaking for a majority of the House of Commons, and this is why speakers do not express their opinion.”
“That's the entire point, otherwise they can't remain neutral and above the political fray,” he added.
However, sources close to Bercow said the convention only applies to domestic matters and not to international matters.
Labor MP Stephen Doughty praised Bercow for his stance but said he was shocked by the strength of his response.
“I am delighted that the speaker has listened to members from across the house regarding our deep concerns that Donald Trump not be honored with an address in Westminster Hall or elsewhere in the Palace of Westminster, after his comments and actions on women, torture, refugees and the judiciary,” he said.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Carlos Barria